A walkthrough video guide of Birmingham Airport for travellers with autism.


Travelling by plane can be exciting
for some people but for others it can be very challenging. It can cause great stress and anxiety. This can be the case
for a person with autism, but also for their parents, carers
or people who are travelling with them. Birmingham Airport and OCS
are keen to support these people and ensure everything possible
can be done to assist them when using the airport
and its facilities. There are some mandatory procedures
for air travel customers, such as the security systems,
passport and immigration control. However, Birmingham Airport, OCS and
Autism West Midlands have worked closely to make any reasonable adjustments
to their processes and procedures to take into account challenges
faced by people with autism and their travelling companions. This video will serve as a walkthrough
guide for Birmingham Airport, from arriving and checking in
to boarding the plane and departing. There will also be a short guide
of the arrivals process. Birmingham Airport and OCS offer escorted assistance for people
with autism, by prior arrangement. We will show an OCS assistant
escorting a passenger with autism who is travelling alone, but families and small groups
can also use this facility. This will give you the opportunity to
familiarise yourself with what to expect and give a good visual guide
of the processes. If you would like more general
information about autism, please visit
the Autism West Midlands website. There are several ways you may
travel to the airport: by car, train, bus, taxi or a lift from a family member
or friend. You will need to make your way
to the departures hall. This may involve a walk
or a bus from the car park or a trip on the monorail
from the rail station. Taxis and buses pull up outside
the departure hall. If you need a trolley,
you will see signs showing where the trolley stations
are located. There are three entrances
to the departures hall. Inside can be a very busy place. Lots of people will be moving through
as well as waiting around. Inside the departures hall,
you will find shops, food and coffee outlets, waiting areas and, most importantly,
the OCS assistance desk. This is where you can speak to staff
about your travel through the airport, get any information
or access special equipment. You can also meet with your guide
if you have arranged an escort. The trained OCS assistance staff
will be at this desk, but will also be located
around the airport halls, wearing bright yellow tops
with the OCS logo. Please feel free to approach
any of them for help or guidance. This is the check-in hall and will be
the first queue you will encounter. The queuing system may appear strange
as it is not straight line. Passengers are guided through a winding
line through the queuing section. There can be a significant wait so you may wish to provide
a quiet activity to pass the time. Also make sure you have made
a visit to the toilet if necessary, before you join the queue. You may have arranged
for escorted assistance from OCS and this could include being taken
to the front of the queue. Checking-in is the process of confirming
you are prepared for the flight, where your flight documents are checked and you will be issued with a
boarding pass to get on the plane later. This is also where you drop off
large luggage that will be put on the plane for you,
in its cargo section. This luggage will be weighed and confirmed as below the limit set
for your journey. If your luggage weighs more, you may
be asked to pay an additional charge. Your luggage will pass through
to an area behind the desks, to be taken to the plane. You will be allowed to take hand luggage
onto the plane with you, but the amount, size
and weight will be limited. Importantly, there are restrictions on what items are allowed to be taken on
the plane with you in hand luggage as well as any loose items
you may carry. The next part of the process
is the security checking area. This is a very important process
that everyone has to do and is for the safety
of all air travellers. There will be another queue to join
and waiting times can vary a lot. It may be noisy and crowded
with warm, even high, temperatures. Again, it will be important to check
you have none of the prohibited items. When you arrive
at the security check area, you will be asked to do several things
that may feel uncomfortable or unusual, but these things are important
for all air travellers to ensure safety. You will be asked to place hand luggage
or bags into a special tray. You will also have to place loose items,
like phones, electronic devices, keys, coins and any other metallic items
into this tray. You may even be asked
to remove your shoes, belts, brooches or tie-pins,
if they are metallic or have metal on. The tray will then pass through
a machine that can see inside your bag or other items,
with x-rays. You will then be asked to individually
pass through a big arch, that is a metal detector machine, to check you haven’t forgotten
to place any items in the tray, but sometimes an alarm sound will go off
as you pass through the arch. This will indicate
to the security people that there is still something metallic
on you or in your pocket. If this happens, there will be
an additional check made by an individual security person. You may be asked to allow a security
person to rub a small piece of cloth
on your shoes This swab will then be placed
into a detector machine and will check for any prohibited
chemicals or substances. Once scanner checks are completed,
you’ll be asked to collect your items from your tray
at the end of the conveyor. The conveyor system is often quite loud
and clunky. After the security checks,
you’ll be offered the opportunity to buy things
in the tax & duty-free shopping area. This is called airside where you can buy
many items at a lower price than in high street stores because you are technically out of the country. However there may be restrictions on how much of
certain things you are allowed to buy. The tax & duty-free shopping area can be
somewhat overwhelming for people with autism because there are many bright lights,
strong smells, and lots of people moving around
the stalls and through the walkways. Even if you do not want
to buy any items here, it can take a while to get through
this area to the departure lounge. OCS and Autism West Midlands have made
special arrangements with Birmingham Airport to allow people with autism and their
companions to bypass the tax & duty-free area and go straight to the departure lounge. This does not mean that you cannot go
back into the tax & duty-free shopping area later on, once you have settled
in the departure lounge. This bypass option
is only by special prior arrangement and you will have to be escorted
by OCS staff through a special route. Please contact OCS before you arrive
at the airport to arrange this. Once in the departure lounge, you will
have several services available. You will have access to seating,
toilets, food and refreshment outlets, an area where you can watch planes
taking off and landing and an OCS assistance desk. There will also be many large screens
with upcoming flight information, including the gate number you will need
to go to in order to board your plane. There will also be regular loudspeaker
announcements for passengers to make their way to a particular gate, but not all of these
will be for your flight. Whilst you are in the departure lounge, it will be good to check you have
all documents for boarding the plane. This will include the boarding passes
you were given at the check-in desk, your tickets and your passport. While waiting, you may wish to check out
one of the great Sky Zone play areas. Here, you and your child
or young person, can pass waiting time, playing games or
doing interactive or sensory activities. Please visit the Sky Zone page on
Birmingham Airport’s website for all the details. Keep an eye on the flight information
screens for when you are due to board and which gate you will need
to join the queue for. Once you are called to your boarding
gate by loudspeaker announcement, or you have seen the screen information
for your flight change to ‘Boarding’, you can then make your way
to the designated gate. There will probably be a queue but you can arrange to be escorted
to the front of the queue by contacting OCS
before you arrive at the airport. At the boarding gate, you will be greeted by someone who will
ask you to show them your documents. Once these are checked,
you will proceed to the plane. There are several ways you may get
to the plane itself. Usually, you will go through
a short tunnel up to the plane door. You may be shown to a bus
that will take you to the plane. You might have to walk a short distance
to the plane and up steps to the door. At the door, you will be greeted
by a flight attendant, who may also ask you to show them your
boarding pass, which will let them know what seats
you are to go to. They will either tell you
the way to your seat, or may escort you there,
if necessary. Once in your seat, you will be required
to put on your seatbelt, turn off any electronic devices, and make sure any loose items are stowed
away in your hand luggage. You will be allowed to access these
and use your devices once the plane has taken off and the
‘Seatbelts On’ instruction is lifted. Above your seat, you will have a light
and an air vent. There will also be a blind that you
can pull down to cover the window, if you are next to one. Once all the passengers
are on the plane, one of the flight attendants
will demonstrate the safety and emergency procedures. There is no need to worry about this. It is important information and this
demonstration happens on every flight. before take-off. The plane will start to move slowly,
usually backwards at first, and will taxi slowly across the airfield
to where the plane will take off. When the plane is ready to take off, you
will hear a loud roar from the engines and there may be some vibration. The plane will start to move
and accelerate faster and faster until it points upwards at an angle
and lifts off the runway. Shortly after the plane
leaves the ground, you may hear a clunking noise
from underneath the plane. This is the plane’s wheels
being pulled up into the plane, with the doors closing to cover them. You may feel a sensation
in your stomach, like you get in a lift, and you may feel yourself
becoming a bit heavier. As the plane climbs, you may feel a popping sensation
in your ears. This is normal
but does not happen to everyone. This may continue for a while as
the plane climbs to its full altitude. If you are landing at Birmingham Airport
or returning from a trip away, this section will guide you
through the process. You might leave the plane
in a number of ways. Usually through a short tunnel
but maybe down some steps to a bus or a short walk to the arrivals area. Birmingham Airport also offer
an assisted passenger service, which could include someone
meeting you on the plane and escorting you through
the rest of the arrival process. You will then proceed to the immigration
and passport control area, where your documents will be checked
by Border Force personnel. You could be faced by a long wait in a
winding queue and there will be lots of people
in official uniforms a bit like police officers,
making sure everyone is safe. You will eventually go to a desk where
an officer will check your documents. You will then pass through
into the luggage collection hall, where you will be shown
which carousel to collect from, on big screens with your flight number. You will pass through
the customs area, where you may be asked to allow
an officer to look at your luggage in case you have any prohibited items. After this, you will enter the arrivals
area in the main building. If you have arranged to meet someone,
this is where they will be. You can arrange for an OCS assistant
to escort you through the whole process up to this point,
by prior arrangement. Birmingham Airport, OCS
and Autism West Midlands hope that this video guide will help you
to prepare for your journey and give you a better idea of what to
expect travelling through the airport. OCS staff will be happy to assist you
at any point, just look out for the bright yellow tops
with the OCS logo.

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